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The Water-Babies by Charles Kingsley
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The Water-Babies (original 1863; edition 1862)

by Charles Kingsley

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1,736324,078 (3.38)119
Member:KayCliff
Title:The Water-Babies
Authors:Charles Kingsley
Info:The Readers Library
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, children's, Victorian, fairy tale, satire

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The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley (1863)

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This book was read to me when I was five years old, horrifying me then and ever since. As the story goes, chimneys were difficult to clean so they sent a small boy up inside it to do the cleaning. Why? It was his job. Why wasn't he in school? School was only for fortunate children. What did his parents do about it? No mention. Who looked after him? No one. Did the boys die up the chimney? Sometimes.

Then it goes on to describe babies in a weedy pond, the illustrations showing them peering out of their watery prison that is like a giant green goldfish bowl. I never found out why. Just how bad do you have to be to live in this world?

I have since found out the story was part of his "scientific theory" over human origins. Oh, perfect for a child's entertainment!

Kingsley was a priest of the Church of England and evidently believed that horror stories would keep his congregation into line. He was the worst kind of Victorian patriarch.

My grade one teacher has a lot to answer for by giving me this lifelong nightmare. ( )
1 vote VivienneR | Dec 7, 2016 |
Don't remember much about this now, but I read this several times in childhood. Reckon the last time would’ve been when I was eight or nine, circa 1983-4.

A must for all youngsters! ( )
  PhilSyphe | Oct 6, 2016 |
This isn't one of my all-time favorite children's books – far from it, and I'm not at all an admirer of Kingsley personally – and I'd ordinarily give it 3*** or, perhaps generously, 3½***; but this particular edition rates 5***** for the illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith, who in fact rates 5***** or at least near to it for just about every work of illustration she ever did! ( )
  CurrerBell | Sep 12, 2016 |
This children's classic reflects the culture of the time in which it was written. The writing describes the fanciful journey of an abused chimney sweep who finds refuge with the fairies. Many quote worthy passages mixed with some racial stereotyping make for an interesting read. ( )
  jnmwheels | Apr 3, 2016 |
Young Tom is an orphan in mid-nineteenth century London who is apprenticed to a chimney sweep who treats him harshly. While cleaning the chimneys in a large manor house, Tom gets lost in the maze of chimneys and lets himself down into the wrong room where he is mistaken for a thief. He is chased for miles across the countryside before coming to a stream where he decides to clean himself. The fairies in the stream turn him into a water baby, and he forgets his past life. He spends years playing in the stream and the ocean with other water babies before setting out on a journey in which he will learn enough to become a man. Kingsley uses the novel as a commentary on several social issues of his day, including Darwinism and religion.

Although this was seen as a children’s book when it was published, there is a lot under the surface of it for adults. I enjoyed the playful tone of the narrator and the social commentary. The last chapter threw me off, however. It went off in a really weird direction, and I had a hard time following it. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (53 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Kingsleyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Attwell, Mabel LucieIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beards, Richard D.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goble, WarwickIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Italiander, MikeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnstone, Anne GrahameIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirk, Maria L.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
MacDonald, RobertaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mozley, CharlesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Robinson, W. HeathIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sambourne, LinleyIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarrant, Margaret W.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vihervaara, LyyliTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wall Perné, Gust van deIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Once upon a time there was a little chimney-sweep, and his name was Tom.
Quotations
No one has a right to say that no water-babies exist, till they have seen no water-babies existing.
And whither she went, thither she came.
It's so beautiful, it must be true!
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Available online at The Hathi Trust:
https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/...

Also available at The Internet Archive:
https://archive.org/details/waterbabie...

Also available at Project Gutenberg:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/36309...
Haiku summary
Life after death? Yes!
Climbing-boy now wet infant,
somehow born-again.
(ed.pendragon)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486450007, Paperback)

A young chimney sweep enters a magical waterworld where he meets creatures that teach him the difference between right and wrong. Delightful characters such as Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby will enchant today's young readers just as they did well over a century ago. A lavish edition of a children's classic. 32 illustrations.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:22 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The adventures of Tom, a sooty little chimney sweep with a great longing to be clean, who is stolen by fairies and turned into a water baby.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 10 descriptions

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Audible.com

6 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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